New year, fresh start.
Despite a bevy of daily challenges, the dawn of a new year brings a renewed sense of purpose and a desire to live a brighter and healthier life.
Goals to manage a better diet and the overall quest for better health and fitness, are tremendous stepping-off platforms. Whatever positive path you have charted for 2022, always know there is help and hope waiting at your first turn and many turns thereafter.
Oftentimes we begin our quest for a new direction by vowing to simply eat better. Understanding what that entails and avenues to achieve success are, experts say, the right first steps.
“I recommend you keep a food journal for one week,’’ said Jeni Tackett, MS, RD, LD, registered dietician for Rock Valley Health, a division of Rock Valley Physical Therapy. “Write down everything you eat and drink or use an app like “My Fitness Pal’’ or “Lose it’’ to record your habits. Keeping a food journal is a great way to pinpoint changes you need to make in your diet.’’ Tackett says when it comes to weight loss, diet changes are imperative for success.
“You cannot exercise your way out of consuming too many calories,’’ said Tackett. “You may find that you skip meals, eat unhealthy snacks, or eat too much in the evening. If you are willing to keep a food journal then you are one step closer to making changes to improve your health.’’
Forever energetic and enthusiastic in her approach to making better lives, Tackett says goal-setting is a great way to find a healthier balance to better nutrition.
“After reviewing your food journal, set one or two SMART goals for the following month,’’ Tackett pointed out. “You could choose one nutrition and one exercise goal or stick with two nutrition goals. SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound. A SMART goal is not vague like “I will eat better” but rather specific such as: “I will stop eating at 7 p.m. for the next 30 days. ‘’An example of a SMART fitness goal would be: “I will walk for 20 minutes five days-per-week during my lunch break,’’ added Tackett. “These goals need to push you beyond what you already do and be realistic for you to accomplish.’’
An overall fitness plan is a tremendous compliment to a change in diet.
“You can lose weight without exercising, but I always discuss exercise with clients and encourage some form of movement,’’ said Tackett. “When you reduce calories and do not exercise, you lose muscle and fat. If you incorporate exercise, you preserve your muscle mass so that you lose more fat than muscle. While everyone says they want to lose weight, we really want to lose fat and improve our body composition. ‘’
Cody Lichthardt is a performance enhancement specialist for Rock Valley Physical Therapy and University of Illinois graduate. Dedicated to his craft and those he serves, Lichthardt says small fitness changes that become routine is a great way to begin, but notes it is vital to remember fitness is a lifelong platform. Changes made need to be sustainable.
“Small changes are a great way to start and work until those changes become routine,’’ said Lichthardt. “A two-to-three day a week plan would be great, but even one day a week can be beneficial. Make an effort to do something every day that gets you closer to your goal. It doesn’t necessarily have to be training, but keeping your goal on your mind will ensure success.’’
Lichthardt understands we often get pulled in many different directions and it’s easy to tell yourself: “Not today, I’ll catch up tomorrow.’’ It’s one of the reasons, he says, a training partner or group training is a great path.
“Group training is an affordable option for those who enjoy working as a team,’’ Lichthardt said, noting that group training has a built-in support and accountability system. “Rock Valley offers online and in-person training every weekday at a time that works for both patient and coach. I believe a healthy mindset focusing on getting stronger and increasing lean muscles mass is more important that trying to outwork a bad diet.’’
Scheduling, Tackett says, is the most important aspect of improving diet and weight loss. Eating every four-to-five hours and including balanced meals with some healthy carbohydrates (whole grains like oatmeal or whole wheat bread, fruit, starchy vegetables) and lean protein (chicken breast, beans, fish, tofu) with healthy fats (avocado, nuts, olive oil), fuels your brain and body and will make cravings decrease.
“Many of my clients eat haphazardly and skip meals, eat just carbohydrates or just protein at a meal, and end up overeating in the evening,’’ said Tackett. “Taking time to think about your eating habits and plan for a healthy schedule of eating throughout the day makes weight loss and healthy eating attainable.’’
Once someone finds the right path, a healthy balance of diet and exercise, Tackett says the good work that has been done can continue. A better life does not have to become a rollercoaster ride.
“Repeat after me: “I need to eat healthy and exercise for the rest of my life.” The key to making healthy eating and exercising a lifestyle is accepting that you must find a way to do it indefinitely,’’ said Tackett. “So many fad diets or extreme fitness routines are not sustainable. I recommend that you do not even start radical plans. If you can’t imagine yourself following a diet in 20 years, then don’t start it. Instead, chip away at the habits that you have and make new, healthy habits your lifestyle. While you need to eat healthy, I did not say that you need to eat perfectly. I do not eat perfectly, and I do not expect my clients to do so. No food is off limits, but you should set yourself up to succeed by keeping healthy food that you like on hand and easily assessable at work and home. Keep unhealthy, tempting foods out of sight and out of mind. ‘’
And work to better your life – in some fashion – in 2022.
Join us for an 8 week virtual group weight loss class with an interactive classroom experience via Zoom. Get the new year started on a healthy note by implementing strategies to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
By: Johnny Marx, Storyteller